It’s not that simple

Finding a home for county’s tourism council is getting complicated

After debating the fate of the tourism council building for the better part of an hour, Anderson County commissioners declined to approve the auction of the old tourism building near the Clinton/Norris exchange on I-75.

They also declined to approve buying a building from the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce for the tourism council.

Previously, the tourism building on Charles G. Seivers Boulevard near I-75 had been sold at auction for $693,000 — pending approval by the county commission.

At the November meeting, commissioners postponed action on the sale citing a lack of information. Tied in with that sale was the separate issue of buying a downtown building from the Chamber of Commerce. The new chamber building has not yet been constructed, but plans call for the tourism building to be a separate wing of it.

Tourism council director Stephanie Wells told commissioners that the two were related. She said that if the current building were sold, the only suitable place to move was the Chamber of Commerce building.

Commissioner Stephen Verran said, “We committed to sell, we should sell. Let’s build something we can be proud of.”

Commissioner Shane Vowell said there was too much confusion. “This is not a simple situation,” he said.

“I think co-locating the chamber and the tourism council is good business,” said Commissioner Phil Yager.

Commissioner Tracy Wandell said it made sense to stay at the present location and fund a new building from the hotel/motel tax.

“We are agreeing to a building that does not exist,” said Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank. She said she feared that buying a building from the chamber would circumvent the bidding process.

The proposed contract with the Chamber of Commerce calls for a quarter of an acre and 12,500 square feet of combined office space, with 2,990 square feet of office space dedicated to the tourism council for $807,300.

Commissioner Sabra Beauchamp expressed her opinion of the proposed sales contract by calling it “bogus.”

After much discussion, commissioners voted not to approve the sale of the tourism building. They also voted not to buy a building from the chamber.

The commission was divided on both issues, with both being decided by close margins.

Since the building was not sold, discussion turned to repairs that had been deferred pending the sale and now would have to be faced. Wells said the tourism council has $200,000 for capital projects, and she listed some of the repairs that would need to be made.

Beauchamp suggested a tourism subcommittee be formed to discuss tourism issues.